Wednesday, January 27, 2016

FINALLY Get Organized! January Recap

Back in December, the FINALLY Get Organized! series was announced on DearMyrtle. I quickly knew that this was something I really need, and am hopeful that breaking this mammoth project down into smaller, weekly goals would help me get my genealogy papers under control. So far, so good. I've actually stuck with it for the first month, and if nothing else happens, at least my desk is now under control! (Now, if only my office at work was this neat....but I digress.)

I have limited space, so instead of using binders, I am changing to hanging files. I'm also scanning everything, and saving only a few selected documents in the hanging files.

Wedding picture Nella Beem and Arthur Critchett, 1974


One of my biggest challenges this month was deciding where to store my digital files and creating a naming system for them. I finally decided to put all of my genealogy files in my Dropbox, so I can access them no matter where I am. From there, I have one subdirectory per surname, where I put all of my documents. Each surname has folder has only one subdirectory, for photos. The file naming system I finally settled on is:


This groups all of one person's files together, sorted chronologically. For family records, such as the census, I use only the head of household in the file name.

Thomas Dilemma

If this week's assignment was any indication, we will be working on our maternal grandfather's family next week. My mother has researched her family for over 30 years, and I have very little of it in my Legacy file. I need to decide fairly quickly whether I'm going to start documenting her work now, or skip it and focus on other things those weeks. For now I'm leaning towards adding her research to Legacy bit by bit, and started by adding my aunts and uncles - all 10 of them! 

Final Thoughts

I'm so happy that DearMyrtle is doing this! I tend to have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to big projects, and usually "nothing" wins.  Organizing genealogy files - defines big project. Nothing has definitely won so far. (Hello, Captain Obvious!). With FINALLY Get Organized!, the weekly task lists are manageable, and if you want to use a different storage method, easily adaptable to the system that works for you. This approach is also forcing me to re-evaluate the work I've already done, and I'm finding documents that need to be ordered and new research questions. Now that I'm FINALLY Getting Organized, I am keeping track of those documents and research questions in Legacy, making my research system more organized, too!

FINALLY Get Organized! Week 4

This was, for me, another easy week, which I finished up last night (Tuesday!) while I watched a basketball game.

  1. Index at FamilySearch - I did some indexing for the 1940 census, and off and on since, but then I decided to go back to school, and well, genealogy of any sort came to a screeching halt for two years. It took me a bit to download the software and remember how to use it, but then I remembered that I do enjoy indexing. So, I've set some goals for both indexing and arbitrating, and I will work on both when I'm watching sports or not motivated to work on my genealogy research.
  2. Learn how to browse records at FamilySearch - I do this routinely, especially with the probate records, which for the most part are not indexed yet (not the states I need, anyways). It's nice to be able to look at records without having to travel several states away to view the records I need.
  3. Create surname binders for mother's maiden name - I created my hanging files and labelled some manila files for the Thomas surname. 
  4. Update genealogy programs to include siblings - this was done a long time ago, and with only 2 brothers, it didn't take long to verify that I had all of their information updated 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

FINALLY Get Organized! Week 3

I had a busy week, and knew I'd be out of town for a conference over the weekend. I honestly wasn't sure how I would manage to get anything accomplished this week, especially if DearMyrtle's FINALLY Get Organized! task list for Week 3 was as involved as Week 2. Fortunately, this week's list was, for me, fairly basic: transcribe every source document you documented in Week 2, and then refile them. Since I am going digital, I made sure I had all of my documents in my Dropbox folder, and once I finally settled on a naming scheme, changed the names as needed. I had transcribed all of those city directories last week, plus a lot of the other documents, so I was ahead of the game this week. I wound up needing to transcribe a couple of death certificates, a family Bible record, and a couple of other certificates. Easily done, and since I already had all of these scanned into Dropbox, I used those images to do the transcriptions and did not need to refile the physical copies.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

FINALLY Get Organized - Week 2

Late last year, I stumbled on FINALLY Get Organized!, a year-long project to organize genealogy papers and digital files in 2016. I really need to work on getting 18 years worth of files organized and digitized, as well as updating my Legacy file. Although the FINALLY Get Organized! method uses binders, I had already decided to change from binders to hanging files, and will stick to that method. (I need more room on the bookcase for books, so moving to a filing cabinet makes more sense given my limited space.)

Week 2 Checklist:
  • This week's task was to document and file your surname's lines, back to your great-grandfather. Since I'm using hanging files instead of binders, I labelled a hanging file and set up manila files for my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I knew I had been lazy about my parents and grandparents, and got the documentation for those generations finished up early in the week. My great-grandparents, Arthur & Frances (Horton) Beem, were another matter, though. I had about 15 years of city directories from Jacksonville, Florida that needed to be documented in Legacy. Talk about tedious! Doing this, though, I realized that they moved almost every year between 1924-1944, when Frances died. I also have several documents that I need to order, and have started with Arthur's Spanish-American War pension file. Fortunately it is still with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which makes it a lot more affordable than if it was with NARA. After Frances died, Arthur went to Mexico, so I don't have a lot of any information about the last 10 years of his life. The only documentation I have for his death is from a family Bible record. I'm hoping the pension file will show where he lived in Mexico, and provide further evidence for the death date in the Bible. 
  • Part of my journey in getting organized is to switch to digital records as much as possible, so I scanned or downloaded each of my source documents. Now the only paper files I have for these four generations of Beems are photos and unique documents that I can't get elsewhere, such as my dad's ordination certificate. I've printed detailed family group sheets for each of these generations, and placed those in the appropriate manila file. 
  • The last two tasks are to write up a summary of your filing system (both paper and digital), and to write a "genealogy" codicil to your will. I've written the summaries, but I don't have a will, since I don't really have any assets. Instead, I've written a brief set of instructions on what I want done with my research, and will send them to two family members that I trust to follow through. I've also placed a printed copy of all of these documents in the hanging file folder that has my pedigree charts, which sits at the front of the filing cabinet. 

My dad, John Beem, 1967

Jacksonville (Florida) City Directory, 1938, showing my grandparents (John & Juanita Beem)
and my great-grandparents (Arthur & Frances Beem)

Other Notes:

I'm not very good at keeping to-do lists or research logs, which given my task-oriented nature, is kind of strange. I'm trying to do better with that, so as I worked in Legacy this week, I created to-do items for each generation. I also found some research log forms that I like, and have placed a copy in each manila folder. Now as I research a family, I can keep a written log of what I have looked at and the results.

City directories are great resources, but documenting each year can get tedious! I did a couple of years at a time, and by Friday night I had 15 years of directories fully documented, including transcriptions in the source documentation. Even though this week's task was not focused on siblings, it was easy to add the listings for my grandfather's sisters with Legacy's source clipboard, so their entries are documented as well - at least up until they got married.